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St Patrick’s Day 2023: These actresses are more than a match for the fellas 

Christian Wenande
March 14th, 2023


Six Oscar nominations in the last decade … it’s a tally any country would be proud of

Saoirse Ronan in ‘Little Women’

Australian actresses, Slovenian cyclists, Argen-tinian dictators … sometimes a nationality develops an inexplicable knack for producing legions of talented individuals in the same field – and Ireland’s propensity for producing actors has not gone unnoticed in recent years.

From Richard Harris to Colin Farrell, the assem-bly line has gone Mach 10.1 in recent years – mostly in line with the explosion of its TV industry: from the commendable ‘Normal Peo-ple’ and ‘dependable’ Kin to the reprehensible ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’ and indefensible demise of ‘The Fall’. See our factbox for our top five youngsters to look out for.

Class of 2023
But what about the actresses? No, we’re not talking about the one-offs – from Hollywood legend Maureen O’Hara to veruca dissector Brenda Fricker, who swapped the wards of Casualty for Oscar night to win Best Supporting Actress in 1990 – there have inevitably been a few over the years.

No, this is all about the class of 2023: a top ten to rival anything the men can put together. We’ve got Oscar nominees by the bucket-load, singers and scriptwriters – talent that makes you question what they’ve put in the water.


1 Sharon Horgan

It’s got to a point when it should no longer surprise you when Sharon Horgan is cast in a major Hollywood film, like just recently as the wife of Nicolas Cage (playing himself ) in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. She was even allowed to retain her Irish accent – that’s how sought-after she has become. Raised in Bellewstown, County Meath – her brother is the rugby player Shane – nothing was handed to her on a plate. At the age of 36, she created the comedy series Pulling to land her big break, followed by the equally-acclaimed Catastrophe. And now her new series Bad Sisters, one of the hits of 2022, has opened the door to whatever she desires.

2 Saoirse Ronan

From Caoimhe and Niamh to Siobhan and Aoife, Irish names can be hard to pronounce, even if the end result sounds simple and familiar. Step forward Saoirse (pronounced seeuh-shuh) Ronan, Ireland’s answer to Meryl Streep, who had already been nominated for four Oscars by the time she was 25 – or should that be seven-time nominee Peter O’Toole, as she is yet to win one. ‘Little Women’, ‘Lady Bird’, ‘Brooklyn’ and ‘Atonement’ … what’s next on the journey of the 28-year-old born to Irish parents in the US, who moved to Dublin at the age of three. She’s already reached the stars. 

3 Jessie Buckley

Fame took a while to come knocking at the door of Oscar nominee Jessie Buckley. An early fan was composer Andrew Lloyd Weber – the brains behind a 2008 talent show to discover the next Nancy for a new production of ‘Oliver!’ on London’s West End, in which she finished second – who ended up mentoring her. Since then, roles in the likes of ‘Chernobyl’, ‘Wild Rose’, ‘Fargo’ and ‘The Lost Daughter’ have cemented her leading lady status. Born in Killarney, Jessie is another Irish actress with the world at her feet.

4 Nicola Coughlan

Hard to imagine this actress would end up as one of the leads in two of Netflix’s most popular shows of recent years, but Nicola Coughlan has defied expectations her whole life and never been afraid to stand up for the downtrodden or, when she feels trodden on, herself. The star of Derry Girls and Bridgerton, who grew up in Oranmore near Galway, took exception to an article in The Mirror criticising her choice of dress for the 2019 BAFTA TV awards, responding with the tweet “I mean incorrect @DailyMirror I look smokin’, sorry bout it”. Well, she is so hot right now she even got invited onto ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race UK’. 

5 Ruth Negga

Yet another Oscar nominee is Ruth Negga, who grew up in Limerick. Nominated in 2016 for ‘Loving’, a depiction of a couple’s battle to have their interracial marriage recognised by US courts in the 1960s, her career has somewhat stalled since then, although she has been busy on the stage – in 2011, she memorably portrayed Shirley Bassey in a BBC miniseries. However, in October her casting in ‘Good Grief’ was confirmed – the directorial debut of Dan Levy from Schitt’s Creek. So her film career would appear to have found its paddle again. 

6 Kerry Condon

Nominated for the Oscars this year is Kerry Condon, the more or less sole actress in ‘The Banshees of Insherin’, in which she plays the considerably smarter sister of Colin Farrell’s simpleton. Following her BAFTA triumph, she’s the second favourite to win. Hitherto, her most noted role was playing the daughter of  Mike Ehrmantraut in ‘Better Call Saul’. Oscar night will determine whether we better call her agent.

7 Caitríona Balfe

It was a surprise to many when Caitríona Balfe from Greater Dublin failed to land a nomination for her brilliant portrayal of the main character’s mother in Kenneth Branagh’s ‘Belfast’. At the Golden Globes, BAFTAS and several others, she’d been preferred to Judi Dench for a Best Supporting Actress nod, but seniority called for the Dame when it came to the big one. Known wide and far for her leading role in ‘Outlander’, at 43 she hasn’t got much left to prove, but you never know.

8 Eve Hewson

Turns out there’s a good reason why Bono was always showing off his packet, as it was harbouring the seeds of one of Ireland’s brightest acting prospects. Fortunately, Eve Hewson opted to take her rock god Daddy’s mortal name – otherwise people might have thought her parents were Sonny and Cher. So far she’s made a few notable films – including a lamentable 2018 retelling of ‘Robin Hood’ – but it’s on TV where she’s managed to shine, bringing a kooky nature and genuine menace to her roles in ‘Behind Her Eyes’ and ‘Bad Sisters’.

9 Elva Trill

Blink and you’ll miss her in the likes of ‘Star-struck’ and ‘Line of Duty’, but stardom beckons for Elva Trill following her sizeable role in the recently released ‘Jurassic World Dominion’. Trill, who grew up in Ballymote, will be a household name before you know it.

10 Clare Dunne

In the end, it was a tussle for the final place on our ranking between Clare Dunne and Alison Oliver – respectively the stars of recent series ‘Kin’ and ‘Conversations with Friends’. In the end, Dunne gets it because 1/ the Dubliner is brilliant in her breakout part and 2/ it’s refreshing to see an actress put herself out there with such a significant birthmark on her face – in her case, under her left eye. Well, keep your eyes on Miss Dunne as her career is in liftoff.

TOP FIVE YOUNG IRISH ACTORS 

Barry Keoghan

His role as Dominic in ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ could have been a typical dim-but-loveable bit part, but he manages to make the role increasingly nuanced as the film goes on. Not unlike Dominic, Keoghan overcame a tough childhood and has since shot to stardom with roles in ’71, Dunkirk, and The Batman. Less well known is Keoghan’s love of boxing. ”The thing with boxing is, it’s the only time I feel really present,” he told the New York Times. “You can do meditation – which I don’t – but people go on about feeling in the moment and, for me, that’s when I’m boxing. You’re totally immersed in this state that I can’t describe.”

Andrew Scott

After starring as Benedict Cumberbatch’s eternal nemesis Moriarty in ‘Sherlock’, Andrew Scott has gone from strength to strength. The eclectic actor was even in ‘Saving Private Ryan’ – he’s one of the queasy-looking extras on the boat before they land at Omaha Beach. His most important recent role was as the ‘hot priest’ in Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s hit comedy ‘Fleabag’. This prompted someone to write on Twitter that “When that priest said ‘kneel’ my vagina exploded in a way a man has never quite been able to achieve.” Unfortunately, for the author of that post, Andrew came out publicly as gay in 2013.

Paul Mescal

Another actor whose most well-known character has earned him heartthrob status is Paul Mescal. His role as Connell in the TV adaptation of Irish novelist Sally Rooney’s ‘Normal People’ led to the creation of an Instagram account ‘@connellschain’, which primarily features photos of Connell adorned in his best Argos chic. It has 143,000 followers. The Guardian published an article called ‘Chain Reaction: Why is there such unbridled lust for Connell’s necklace in Normal People?’ Mescal, meanwhile, is proving to be anything but normal, having been nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars for his role in ‘Aftersun’. 

Colin Morgan

Magic Colin Morgan first hit our screens as Merlin in the TV series of the same name. There was a slight kerfuffle at the time because Morgan, who is Northern-Irish, had to disguise his accent, leading people to assume he was English. This annoyed certain viewers, who pointed out Merlin, who was Welsh, should speak with a Welsh accent. Hopefully someone told them there are limits to the historical accuracy required from a TV series about a mythical wizard. Anyhow, just like Harry Potter, Morgan eventually grew up, although unlike Daniel Radcliffe, he developed leading man looks. Recently cast at the baddy in ‘Belfast’, he has also had big roles in TV series ‘Mammals’ and forthcoming movie ‘Corsage’. 

Domhnall Gleeson

Everyone knows Brendan Gleeson, who plays the curmudgeonly Colm in The Banshees of Inisherin. But what about his son, Domhnall? Thanks to roles in ‘Ex Machina’, the latest ‘Star Wars’ trilogy and recent series ‘The Patient’, he’s building up a portfolio that might soon challenge his Dad’s. (SH)


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